Tyler Green
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Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Friday book: “Hassel Smith: Paintings 1937-1997″

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This week’s Friday exhibition is a book: “Hassel Smith: Paintings 1937-1997.” It was edited by Petra Giloy-Hirtz and includes contributions from Allan Temko, Peter Selz, Susan Landauer, Paul J. Karlstrom and Robert C. Morgan. It was published by Prestel. Giloy-Hirtz discusses the book on this week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast.

Smith was among the painters who emerged in post-World War II San Francisco, a group that included Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, Jay DeFeo, David Park and Frank Lobdell. (And unlike them, Smith was an early explorer of assemblage, producing eye-catching mixed-media works as early as 1943.)

Despite producing a substantial and significant body of work, Smith has never quite received the attention the other Bay Area-based artists have. (It probably didn’t help that Smith was a prodigious drinker or that he gave up California for England in the 1960s.)  That’s too bad: His abstractions of the late 1950s and 1960s are smartly composed and his palette was rich and varied, his hard-edge, paint-by-numbers-referencing abstractions are seductively catchy and his 1980s abstractions are lush and mature. Smith’s is a significant oeuvre that’s only now beginning to receive the attention it merits.

Hassel Smith, Bird Lover, 1957. Collection of the San Jose Museum of Art.

Hassel Smith, Psychoseismorama II, 1960. Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington.

Hassel Smith, Untitled, 1963.

Hassel Smith, Untitled, 1988-93.

Hassel Smith, Untitled, 1990-94.

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